3-D printing of guns will harm society greatly

This article appeared in USC’s Daily Trojan on November 18, 2013. 

Texans love their guns — there is hardly any disagreement about that. Many consider attending gun shows, buying tickets to Western movies and revelling in the “shoot ‘em up” scenes to be a United States tradition.

Yet, even if Texas weren’t already obsessed with guns, the latest technology coming out of the state now brings the weapons much closer to home. Solid Concepts, a Texas company, announced on Nov. 8 that they had made the first metal gun using a 3-D printer, according to CNN. The company said the pistol resembles a M1911 handgun. It was built from mostly stainless-steel parts and essentially feels and looks like an actual handgun. As a licensed firearm manufacturer, Solid Concepts said it will look into the possibility of selling replacement parts for handguns.

“The engineers who run our [3-D printing] machines are top of the line; they are experts who know what they’re doing and understand 3-D printing better than anyone in this business,” Solid Concepts spokeswoman Alyssa Parkinson told CNN.

The company also believes that only the most skilled experts will have access to this potentially deadly innovation.

In addition, the company believes the hefty price of a 3-D printer will help deter the wrong people from being able to create the gun.

“The industrial printer we used costs more than my college tuition [and I went to a private university],” Parkinson told CNN.

Unfortunately, people can purchase other 3-D printers for the rather-reasonable price of $2,199.

Despite the belief that most people won’t be able to afford the equipment to produce their own guns, the debate surrounds the failure to secure formidable prevention methods to gun violence and an unnecessary prevalence of guns in this country. Criminals could even end up creating copies of 3-D printed guns.

In the week since the company announced their new gun-making capabilities, 25-year-old Cody Wilson, who in the past had expressed his affinity toward anarchy and is a member of the nonprofit group Defense Distributed, posted instructions on how to make the gun online. If Solid Concepts’ prevention methods are so bulletproof, then it should not be easy to access building instructions.

Wilson’s posting was so detrimental that the U.S. State Department sent Defense Distributed a cease-and-desist letter. Shortly after, its website was shut down.

The 3-D-printed gun is not the first 21st-century gun to cause controversy. On Nov. 14, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms released the results from tests it conducted on another downloadable 3-D printed weapon, referred to as the Liberator. In its report, the ATF said the printed gun was both “dangerous” and was often susceptible to not working. Digital Trends reported an incident where one 3-D-printed gun exploded.

For quite some time, the gun debate in this country has focused on who can get guns and where they can purchase them. The emergence of the 3-D-printed gun brings a new element to this continuous topic: who can make guns. In weeks following the Los Angeles International Airport and the Washington Navy Yard shootings, the current political climate surrounding guns is not adequately prepared to interrupt the possible ramifications of allowing guns to be made by the common man.

Instead, the U.S. government needs to limit its focus on regulating the guns that are already in the marketplace, and not deciding how to bring more in. The 21st century, however, is inevitably replete with technological innovations such as the 3-D gun printer, and the gun debate is only bound to get more heated.

Jordyn Holman is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism.

Follow Jordyn on Twitter @jojoholmey

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